fairytale angst

fractured by joanna karaplis is the kind of book i would have loved when i was YA (and, ok, yes, i'm still very YA at heart). what i love about this book is all the classic elements of fairytale lore intertwined with true-to-life teenage problems:

the main character in the first tale is a teen named yuki white, (yes, that's snow white to you) - and the title is snow white and the seven dorks. the seven dorks are the computer club geeks that yuki befriends at her new school. they are the quintessential computer nerds:

They’re all so stereotypically nerdy that I wondered, at first, if they were for real [....] the computer lab quickly became my second home, which is how I basically became the one-and-only female member of the Computer Club. Not that I officially joined or anything... can you imagine the yearbook photo? Me with my shit-kicking boots and them with their T-shirts that came free with the latest computer game? 
so the dorks are super dorky and we love super dorky because secretly or not we all suspect we are too. i know i am a dork and  i also knew i was in high school. so, like, yuki, although i kinda was trying to be all rebel and cool i preferred the company of geeks. and so does snow white, safe in her computer lab with her 7 dorks.

but the story is not just high school angst - it's also heavy into mixed race cultural identity and the weight of grief brought on by the loss of a parent:

when yuki's japanese mother dies and her father brings her "to his hometown, this tiny little place in the middle of nowhere where I felt like the only non-blonde, non–blue-eyed person for miles around." (hence the dorky friends and new school) you can feel 'snow's' alienation setting in; so much so that she doesn't even care that everyone at school ends up calling her 'snow' - at least its not 'yucky' she says referring to the usual mis-pronunciation of her name.

the loss of her mother is clearly something yuki is not really ready to process; when one of her best dorks, kevin, brings up an anime fan photo on the internet, yuki's cultural identity and her mother's death all get tied up in a knot of emotion:
“Sorry, I don’t watch anime.”
“But you’re Japanese!”
“Half-Japanese. Maybe I only got the sushi-loving genes. I definitely missed out on the anime ones,” I snapped.
and she leaves the scene upset by happy memories of her mother's manga reading and guilt ridden that she never thought to keep her mother's collection of japanese comics.

here's where the cool kid, jason, decides he needs to be her friend too. now, there's nothing wrong with being blonde and beautiful with a gorgeous smile. but you can kind of tell things are moving in a different direction when he shows up in the computer lab completely out of the blue to say "cool" three or four times to yuki:
and then Kevin stated the obvious:
“Well, that was weird,”...
yes, kevin. yes, it was.

but - wait! there's more fairytale analogy! not only is there a prince and all that - but there is also the apple! the poisoned apple! - cleverly disguised as a little pill and cloaked in good, yes, i'll say it amazing feelings and a first kiss. that goes very, very wrong. chalk it up to princey wanting too much too soon. luckily yuki is only conscious enough to realise she's being taken advantage of but luckily  kevin, already crushing on her, has been watching jason's moves and doesn't like them one bit. rescuing and bonding ensue and yuki goes home to face a good grounding but not before realising she's lost nothing in dissing jason and gained a lot in trusting kevin, her main dork.

yay! the dork wins!

tale #2: cyberella

how much did i laugh while reading this tale? a lot. very funny dialogue - joanna karaplis deserves huge kudos for her very true to life teenage dialogue. or in this case text-a-logue. or whatever.

cindy, the main character in this tale, and her best friend, matt, are huge fans of the reality tv show, true2life; the story is told weaving the the messaging between matt and cindy and the fan blog posts for the tv show together. cindy, of course, has troubles at home what with the evil stepfamily always on her case, but she is determined to win vip tickets to the "castle" nightclub to participate in the halloween episode where the cast of the show will be mingling with the the vip. and maybe then she will meet her favourite cast member, ryder. and meet him she does! this is a great modern redo of the cinderella fairytale that is charming and fun to read.

tale #3: swan song

this tale is a serious commentary on our values as a society and the pressure marketing and social media puts on youth to ascribe to a certain image - especially young women.

tag line for the story is:
(this “little mermaid” found out the hard way that change must come from within. some of us will learn  from her mistakes. some of us won’t.)
if you have read the hans christian andersen fairytale (not the disney version) you will know how this could end, and karaplis doesn't pull any punches with the harshness of the original moral.

the story begins with adriana after a very bad choir practice where she has been mocked, again, for her most predominant facial feature, her nose. the reader quickly realises that adriana has a self image problem that she is in conflict with herself and her mom about. she wants a nose job. her mom thinks she is too young. but after much discussion her mom relents. in the meantime, to boost her potential singing career, adriana's best friend, fiona, has convinced her to upload a video of herself to youtube. she works up the courage but decides to sing with her face obscured, as "bedroomsinger" so that no one will recognize her. they don't, and her videos end up going viral on youtube. she gets "spotted" by a producer for "talentvox" a youtube talent show and he invites adriana to audition for their show. meanwhile there is a lot of facebook bullying going on and adriana convinces herself that her upcoming surgery will save her life and make all of her problems go away.

but after a brief moment of a smaller nose and a full heart vindicated, everything quickly spirals out of control: nose, voice, life.

while i read this story, i forgot about 'the little mermaid' throughline and was entirely caught up in the true-to-life characters and plot thus i forgot to anticipate the ending (something very good story should make a reader do) - so i won't deny the catch in my heart and breath when i realized what the ending had to be.

these three stories wonderfully original modern takes to classic fairytales, thanks joanna karaplis and mckeller & martin for really great fridayreads!

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